Marijuana Arrests Driving America’s So-Called ‘Drug War,’ Latest FBI Data Shows

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 19, 2011

    Police made 853,838 arrests in 2010 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The arrest total is among the highest ever reported by the agency and is nearly identical to the total number of cannabis-related arrests reported in 2009.

    According to the report, marijuana arrests now comprise more than one-half (52 percent) of all drug arrests in the United States. An estimated 46 percent of all drug arrests are for offenses related to marijuana possession.

    “Today, as in past years, the so-called ‘drug war’ remains fueled by the arrests of minor marijuana possession offenders, a disproportionate percentage of whom are ethnic minorities,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a prepared statement. “It makes no sense to continue to waste law enforcements’ time and taxpayers’ dollars to arrest and prosecute Americans for their use of a substance that poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco.”

    Of those charged with marijuana law violations, 750,591 (88 percent) were arrested for marijuana offenses involving possession only. The remaining 103,247 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

    Marijuana Arrests in the US

    By region, the percentage of marijuana arrests was highest in the Midwest (63.5 percent of all drug arrests) and southern regions (57 percent of all drug arrests) of the United States and lowest in the west, where pot prosecutions comprised only 39 percent of total drug arrests.

    By contrast, the percentage of arrests for heroin and cocaine was lowest in the Midwest (14 percent of all arrests) and highest in the northeast (29 percent of all arrests).

    Overall, law enforcement agents nationwide arrested 1,638,846 people last year for drug abuse violations, surpassing arrests for all other crimes.

    Since 2000, law enforcement have reported making an estimated 7.9 million arrests for marijuana violations.

    175 responses to “Marijuana Arrests Driving America’s So-Called ‘Drug War,’ Latest FBI Data Shows”

    1. tommas says:

      ” 7.9 million arrests “, that is people who will have to fight to now contribute to society.. wow that is horrible

    2. Zachary Michaud says:

      This is entirely too much. There is no need for marijuana to be criminal in the first place. I wish we could get a few lobbyists in on legalizing ,arijuana for general or medical use. The FDA is just out to keep their damn pockets full.

    3. Scoobersnak says:

      Hey FBI…Quit screwin’ around with the petty stuff and concentrate on all the hard stuff like Cocaine,heroin & Meth…Just leave us Potheads out of your so-called Drug War jubilee!

    4. chris says:

      7.9 million in 11 yrs……when will america rise up and say ENOUGH!! Take notes from syria, egypt etc….they cannot ignore a collective voice!

    5. VTM says:

      We the United Corporations of America,
      In Order to take absolute control,
      We will Control Justice,
      force domestic Tranquility,
      provide for the corporate defence and promote continuous Warfare,
      and force the power of control apon ourselves and for only our Posterity,
      We ordain and established this Constitution for the United Corporations of America.

    6. T-rex says:

      reading this makes me so sad. thats so many lives ruined by not themselves, but government offcials. I thought cops goals were to protect and serve its citizens, not ruin their lives.

    7. robert covert says:

      i was just arrested the other day for an ounce on ganja and its gonna cost me thousands of dollars to fight this, nice to spend that kind of money and still go to jail in this economy.

    8. ron says:

      these are sickening stats and this has to change in my lifetime.

    9. paula chaney says:

      The midwest being the highest in arrests for marijuana does not surprise me @ all. The govt and citizens out here are so closed minded and hillbilly that I do not believe it will ever change. It doesn’t matter if the people here voice their opinions on medical legalization or lessining the penalties, it goes on the ballot and then never passed. Its ok out here to drink and get drunk get in your car and smash up some poor innocent family, however marijuana is the worse thing in the world. They still teach kids in school here that marijuana is a “gateway” drug. The posession penalties seem to increase where the population is smaller. Then u also have the problem of all the judges and cops know eachother so whether the bust is illegal or not, if u don’t have resources from a bigger city (lawyer) then u completely get prosecuted to the fullest. I have a friend right now who is in prison because there was 2 plants growing in his front yard. It wasn’t even weed it was hemp, some person saw it from the road and called the police. My friend lost his job/career with the railroad and will be a felon when he is released. Our politicians are corrupt and I think that the people of america really need to start excercising all this “freedom” we supposedly have as american citizens. People need to realize how corrupt our govt is and expose the truth until sumthing is done.

    10. Ned says:

      It would be interesting to know the numbers relating to alcohol. DUI and public intoxication are the only possible offenses that exist for alcohol, right?

      Too bad there isn’t a number that measures how much fewer law enforcement resources were used towards investigating and pursuing actual crimes. Cops busting and processing cannabis users are cops not tracking down leads and investigating criminals that commit victimizing crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery and so on.

      Are we safer when finite law enforcement resources are allocated this way?

      Also another interesting number would be, how many total acts of misdemeanor and felony cannabis activity were there? It’s an unknowable number but it is certainly very large. Depending on how you counted it would be hundreds of million if not billions of cannabis acts were committed in 2010. Law Enforcement succeeds at interdicting or apprehending a tiny tiny percentage of them, which means cannabis law enforcement is extremely inefficient. I happen to know people who have used it for 30-40 years and have never been arrested. With that degree of inefficiency, what is the point?

      How much unjustifiable futility is enough?

      [Paul Armentano responds: According to the UCR, in 2010 there were an estimated 1.4 million arrests for DUI (though this figure would include both DUI alcohol and DUI drug arrests) and 561,000 arrests for ‘drunkenness.’